Reading boss Steve Clarke said referee Phil Gibbs played a key part in his decision to bring on match-winner Nick Blackman for the second half.

The Bury-born former Sheffield United striker, who replaced Jamie Mackie, fired in the 69th-minute goal which dumped Town out of the FA Cup.

Clarke, who picked up his second win in his fourth match in charge of the Royals, told how a late first-half warning for already-booked Mackie by West Midlands whistler Phil Gibbs, who later sent off Town’s Jonathan Hogg for two yellow cards, swung his thinking during the third-round tie.

 

“The referee made such a dramatic scene with Mackie,” said Clarke, and FA Cup winner with Chelsea as both a player and a coach.

“He intimated that the next foul and Mackie would be off, which I thought was very harsh.

“The referee put himself under pressure from then on and I wasn’t prepared to take the risk.

“Rather than leave the decision to the referee I took Mackie off.

“He’s been out injured for a while and the plan was always to bring him off – but not that early.”

Ex-West Bromwich Albion boss and Newcastle United, Chelsea, West Ham United and Liverpool coach Clarke said of his side’s goal: “It was a very good move. Nick is a good finisher.

“It was a very good away performance but not a classic game.

“I told the players at half-time that the best way to enjoy a poor match is to win it.

“This is only my fourth game in charge and we are trying to build some principles.

“The best way to do that is keep a core group of players and work hard.”

Reading no await the fourth-round draw and Clarke, whose 18-strong squad included nine products of the club’s academy as well as ex-Town midfielder Ollie Norwood, added: “I respect the FA Cup and I have a lot of good memories.

“I have been involved in five finals and I know there’s no point wishing for who you get in the next round.

“You just wait and see and get on with it. We will take who we get.”